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Friendship Romance

"I can’t believe it’s been sooo looong, dude!!”

Lena had just tapped to pay when the satisfying beep confirming her payment was drowned out by a loud American girl who had raced through the entire café in a whirlwind to give her a big, loving hug.

“Oh it’s so good to see you! Look at you! I love your hair! You’ve gotta tell me your secret!”

“Hi Lilly”, smiled Lena, “It’s so good to see you too!”

Lena had not seen her friend in nearly a year. At university they had been inseparable: Never did one arrive without the other be it a lecture or one of the football players’ famous house parties. But after graduating, their paths had diverged: Lena had managed to get a spot for a highly competitive internship, and shortly after a high pressure job, whereas Lilly refused to “waste this beautiful life serving the interest of the one percent and perpetuating their soul crushing system of economic exploitation”.

“I got us some cappuccinos – did you want anything to eat?”

“Oh you’re a such a star … thank you! I’m starving! Can I get a pain au chocolat, please”, she said turning to the barista, pronouncing the words with a thick American accent. Lena noticed a microexpression in the barista’s right eye: He winced as if hearing Lilly say pain inflicted actual, physical harm on him. In a millisecond the expression was gone and through a sneering smile he said: “That’s two pounds sixty, please.”

Without noticing or maybe without caring to notice, Lilly swiftly tapped her father’s AMEX triggering another satisfying beep. Lena couldn’t help but feel that this time the beep was not only more audible but somehow also more cheerful than when she had paid using her debit card. As if the machine could somehow read the difference in the two girls’ account balances.

“Tell me what’s new!”, said Lilly once the two friends had found a table. But when Lena took a breath to start a sentence, Lilly suddenly leaned forward with so much vigour that she splashed some of her coffee onto the saucer.

“You won’t believe who I saw at a party last weekend!”

Lena smiled: Even after a year, nothing had changed. There was no awkwardness, no distance, and no need to provide a formal account of things that were going on in their lives. Lilly would always just pick up straight where they had left off, as if no time had passed at all. How she loved Lilly for this trait of hers. Just as eagerly but without spilling her coffee Lena mirrored her friend by leaning forward to listen to her friends' story.  

“I went to this amazing place – the Secret Ballroom”, Lilly started. “Girl, it’s the place to be! I gotta take you there! They have chandeliers hanging from the ceiling and these big fake palm trees in a huge ballroom with DJs every single night and the crowd’s just so cool … Dude, let me tell you, none of these banker vibes that you get everywhere now. Just a superchill crowd – and some very cute guys – I gotta tell you …“

Her thoughts seemed to briefly drift off, but she quickly remembered the point of her story: “Oh and I saw Connor there!”

“You saw Connor?”, Lena asked suddenly perplexed.

“Yes, I bumped into him! Awkward as always, the dude … but he’s looking good! Got a new haircut and all – “

“Was he with someone?”, Lena’s back had straightened and she was looking straight into Lilly’s eyes with an intensity that Lilly had not seen in a long time.

“Look… Lena”, Lilly said taking her friends’ hands. “It’s been a really long time now since the two of you had something going on. I didn’t realize that you had feelings for him after all those years... I’m sorry I brought him up.”

“I don’t have feelings for him”, Lena replied very quickly.

“Oh ok – great… sorry I brought it up... It’s not important anyway! So tell me about your job! I've heard you’re doing so well! You’re not sick of all the slides and old men in fancy suits … ? ”

She took a big bite of her pain au chocolat so she was unable to reply when Lena asked:

“But was he with someone?”

With her mouth busy chewing, Lilly’s face spoke for itself: She was annoyed and confused by her friends’ inability to switch topics. She had to swallow a big gulp of coffee to wash the pastry down before she could say:

“Lena. Listen, girl. He’s a nice guy and all, but you never seemed really crazy about him. Where does the sudden interest come from?”

She was about to take another big bite of her pastry, when Lena pushed it away, and suddenly pleading, asked:

“Please, tell me whether he was with someone.”

“Dude, wow, ok ok, I will – but give me my food back! Jesus can a woman no longer eat in peace”, Lilly sighed.

After a pause, she looked into her pleading friend’s eyes and said: “He wasn’t, ok? He was there with a bunch of friends as far as I can tell.”

Lena shoulders visibly relaxed. She leaned back in her chair suddenly relieved. With a big threat removed she suddenly seemed to find the courage to open up to her friend:

“We started hanging out a few months’ back. His office building is next to mine so we’d bump into each other sometimes for lunch and at some point he started waiting for me after work to walk me home… It was really sweet.”

When Lena pausde she was surprised that her friend had nothing to say, and that it was Lilly now who was listening attentively.

“We first just talked about work stuff", she continued. "You know he’s really smart with all these things. He’s been helping me a lot. But we then ended up just hanging out in the evenings too and so … so one thing led to the other…”

Lilly was munching on her pain au chocolat again, but now she was staring intently, as if watching a Netflix show. So Lena took a deep breath and continued:

“So the other day, we’re just hanging out at home and he suddenly wants to have the talk… He was asking how serious this all was for me… And I don’t know, I freaked out: I said that we were just hanging out and that this was fun …”

Lilly had stopped eating her pain au chocolat and said: “Oh.”

“And since then he’s ghosted me… He’s not responding to my texts, he's not taking my calls... I don't know what to do. I don't even know where he is or whether he's ok. I waited for him outside his office, but he just doesn't show up anymore...”

When Lena looked down defeatedly and started burying her head in her hands, Lilly suddenly started to smile: “Dude, why didn't you just tell him?”

“Tell him what?”

“That you’re serious about this!”

“But … but I can’t …”

“Why can’t you?”

“Because I don’t know…”

“Of course, you know!”

“What do I know?”

“That you like him, you silly!”

“But I can’t tell him that …”

“Jesus! Of course you can! The man’s been running after you for 5 years! He’ll be stoked!”

Lilly was throwing her hands in the air theatrically. Lena took her hands off her face, looked up at her friend and asked with helplessness in her voice:

“But what if it doesn’t work out?”

“Then it doesn’t work out!!”, Lilly screamed throwing her hands even higher.

“Come on, get up”, Lilly said, while finally giving up on her pastry. “We're getting something proper to eat, and you tell me the whole story: I need something savoury for this.”

March 12, 2023 17:35

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1 comment

Viga Boland
21:01 Mar 18, 2023

Very well done. You captured the vibe of old friends reuniting nicely. Excellent use of dialogue too. Keep it up. Good writing.


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